Background: Concentrations of glutathione, a ubiquitous tripeptide with immune enhancing and antioxidant properties, are decreased in the blood and lung epithelial lining fluid of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) seropositive individuals. Since the lung is the most common site of infection in those who progress to AIDS it is rational to consider whether it is possible to safely augment glutathione levels in the epithelial lining fluid of HIV seropositive individuals, thus potentially improving local host defence.
Methods: Purified reduced glutathione was delivered by aerosol to HIV seropositive individuals (n = 14) and the glutathione levels in lung epithelial lining fluid were compared before and at one, two, and three hours after aerosol administration.
Results: Before treatment total glutathione concentrations in the epithelial lining fluid were approximately 60% of controls. After three days of twice daily doses each of 600 mg reduced glutathione, total glutathione levels in the epithelial lining fluid increased and remained in the normal range for at least three hours after treatment. Strikingly, even though > 95% of the glutathione in the aerosol was in its reduced form, the percentage of oxidised glutathione in epithelial lining fluid increased from 5% before treatment to about 40% three hours after treatment, probably reflecting the use of glutathione as an antioxidant in vivo. No adverse effects were observed.
Conclusions: It is feasible and safe to use aerosolised reduced glutathione to augment the deficient glutathione levels of the lower respiratory tract of HIV seropositive individuals. It is rational to evaluate further the efficacy of this tripeptide in improving host defence in HIV seropositive individuals.